Step 1: Acknowledge That You’re Too Screwed Up to See How Screwed Up You Are
Let me paint a picture of the true chemical cluster-fuck that is postpartum depression. It’s like this, you know how you used to go out with your girlfriends on a Saturday night (I say “used to” because you’re a parent now, and the only thing you do on Saturday night is watch 48 Hours while making a mental note to check on whether or not your spouse has recently taken out a new life insurance policy on you).
Anyway, you used to get dressed up—dress, heels, hair and makeup—the whole nine. And, when you left the house, you thought, “Hey, I look pretty good. I mean, not supermodel good but since I’m not a genetic mutant, this is as good as it’s going to get. Let’s do this!” Then, you would start drinking. And, all of a sudden—logic be damned—you’re Miranda freaking Kerr! A couple more drinks and now you are really feeling yourself. No one is hotter than you. You own this night. Hell, you own Miranda Kerr! Sound familiar?
The only problem with this scenario (other than your inevitable massive hangover) is that you actually look like a hot frigging mess. Your mascara is smeared, your hair looks like Nick Nolte’s mugshot and half your boob is hanging out (not the good boob either), only you are way too drunk to realize it. The chemicals that have you feeling all hot to trot are actually blocking you from the reality of the situation—you are superbly fucked up.
Well, that’s what postpartum depression is like as well. The hormones, stress, fatigue, and physical changes have you so supremely messed up that it’s impossible to even compute how messed up you really are. My solution for this is simple. Ask everyone who truly loves you whether or not they think you are out of your mind and when they say yes, please, believe them.
Step 2: Ignore Everything You See on Social Media
Truthfully, I think this should be a general rule of thumb to live by, but this is particularly true when you suffer from PPD and here’s why: parents lie, big time. During the course of my suffering, I posted plenty of joyful pictures, like this one:
and this one:
Aw, so sweet, right? While those pictures were truly a portion of life at the time, they weren’t the whole truth. The whole truth was not the kind of photo you post on Instagram. Nobody wants to see me curled up in the fetal position crying (it’s really hard to get a good selfie angle of that anyway). They want to see cute kids and smiling faces. I get it, I want that too. I just don’t want all of us moms out there to feel like everyone else’s lives are picture perfect because that’s what we see every day on social media, when really there isn’t a filter in the world that can clean up the craziness of what it’s sometimes like to bring a new baby into your family.
Step 3: Make Sure Your Kids Know It’s Their Fault
I’m only partially kidding here. I think our natural instinct as parents is to shield our kids from seeing us sad. Angry, sure, that’s unavoidable given their tendency to act like holy terrors but sad, not so much. Thus, I was spending an extraordinary amount of energy trying to act happy around my kids who were, I’m quite convinced, trying to slowly kill me.
Then one day, I just couldn’t do it anymore. It’s not that I wanted to lose my shit on such an epic level, but just like my inexplicable affection for Christian Slater even after all these years, it was a force bigger than me. I simply could not stop crying, even in front of my 4-year-old. At first, I agonized over this and the potential damage it could do to him, but then a friend reminded me that sadness is a normal human emotion he needs to feel comfortable with, especially if I wanted to avoid raising an emotionally stunted man (just what the world needs more of, am I right?).
So, I explained to him that I was feeling very sad and overwhelmed and that I needed a break. And you know what happened? This kid, the same one who often seemed to take pleasure in doing his best to drive me bat shit, actually started to take care of me. He rubbed my back, telling me everything was going to be OK. He brought me his favorite stuffed animals to snuggle with, and he even wiped his own butt! No wait, he’s never done that last thing—I’m just wishful thinking on that one. Seriously though, it was like that page in Love You Forever where the son holds his old-ass mom in the rocking chair and sings to her. Regardless of the potential Oedipal ramifications, it really proved to me that I shouldn’t sugarcoat the situation as much as I had been. And neither should you.
Step 4: Let It All Go to Shit
Eat chocolate. Drink wine. Stop working out. Let the dust bunnies pile up. Let the kids eat something from a box. Then let the dog eat the box. Then let your husband see that not only did your children eat processed macaroni and cheese for dinner but your dog is now pooping cardboard from having snatched the box while you were drinking wine in the bathroom. In other words, give up the act. You don’t have your shit together right now and that’s OK. You will rebound soon enough. In the meantime, cut yourself some slack and find solace in the comforts of being a total slacker. If it’s a good enough strategy for the Millennials, it’s good enough for you too.